Monday, August 30, 2010

Rec/Depr-ession Started When Again? Beck/Palin Pillagers & A Full-Service Bank: R. Allen Stanford and His CIA Connections: CONSERVATIVES? BAH!!!!!

Wall Street has turned on Mr. Obama with a vengeance: last month Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman of the Blackstone Group, the private equity giant, compared proposals to end tax loopholes for hedge fund managers with the Nazi invasion of Poland. . . . Meanwhile, the right-wing media are replaying their greatest hits. In the 1990s, Mr. Limbaugh used innuendo to feed anti-Clinton mythology, notably the insinuation that Hillary Clinton was complicit in the death of Vince Foster. Now, as we’ve just seen, he’s doing his best to insinuate that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. Again, though, there’s an extra level of craziness this time around: Mr. Limbaugh is the same as he always was, but now seems tame compared with Glenn Beck. And where, in all of this, are the responsible Republicans, leaders who will stand up and say that some partisans are going too far? Nowhere to be found. Paul Krugman
Just in case you were confused about when the unemployment problem began to be a very big crisis (according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)) - one year before the start of what we've been told was the "start" of the Rec/Depr-ession . . . . Right, not recently. Not even close. (HINT: January 2007.) There may be a very good reason that those ignorant folk (and not all are southerners, friends (watch the map)) are deeply alienated (and bought guns when the new administration took office). Heck. Maybe we should get a gun - just for self defense, of course. (I'm a no-guns in the household nut, but the rage quotient is starting to frighten even me.)

And the more I find out about the demographics/psychographics involved, the more suspicious I get of who knew what was upcoming and for how long. You cannot convince me that the housing market runup and sudden decline was anything but intentional. The banksters like Chase (and the new elites - financial, not intellectual, let alone moral - watch their wholehearted promotion of idjits on their Faux News channels as the Beck/Palin Pillagers try to take over the government) are making a mint off of it - don't let anyone tell you that the banks don't want to own all that real estate (and they've been more than aware of the deepening fraud (including in the planning stages I'll bet) the whole time). They do. And they will. If you want to read about The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party and last weekend's monstrous Beck/Palinfest, Frank Rich has done the research for us. If you want an even more monstrous account of how these same banksters were involved in much more of the corrupt Drug War nonsense than anyone talks about now . . . . read on. How about their connections (and many continuing connections offshore) to R. Allen Stanford's nefarious activities (and their CIA connections)? Yeah, according to this story, we've got us REAL CHANGE now. (Emphasis marks added to article at bottom of page - Ed.) Before you undergo foreclosure, you would be wise to read the following article. The banksters finally got part of their money tree axed by the courts (aren't you gratified), but don't worry, the Supreme Court is still bought and paid for by them so they will get a special brand of final "justice" (undoubtedly). The real US (us) will get none. Only the bills (emphasis marks added - Ed.).

MERS was developed in the early 1990s by a number of financial entities, including Bank of America, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, allegedly to allow consumers to pay less for mortgage loans. That did not actually happen, but what MERS did allow was the securitization and shuffling around of mortgages behind a veil of anonymity. The result was not only to cheat local governments out of their recording fees but to defeat the purpose of the recording laws, which was to guarantee purchasers clean title. Worse, MERS facilitated an explosion of predatory lending in which lenders could not be held to account because they could not be identified, either by the preyed-upon borrowers or by the investors seduced into buying bundles of worthless mortgages. As alleged in a Nevada class action called Lopez vs. Executive Trustee Services, et al.:

“Before MERS, it would not have been possible for mortgages with no market value . . . to be sold at a profit or collateralized and sold as mortgage-backed securities. Before MERS, it would not have been possible for the Defendant banks and AIG to conceal from government regulators the extent of risk of financial losses those entities faced from the predatory origination of residential loans and the fraudulent re-sale and securitization of those otherwise non-marketable loans. Before MERS, the actual beneficiary of every Deed of Trust on every parcel in the United States and the State of Nevada could be readily ascertained by merely reviewing the public records at the local recorder’s office where documents reflecting any ownership interest in real property are kept. . . .

“After MERS, . . . the servicing rights were transferred after the origination of the loan to an entity so large that communication with the servicer became difficult if not impossible . . . . The servicer was interested in only one thing – making a profit from the foreclosure of the borrower’s residence – so that the entire predatory cycle of fraudulent origination, resale, and securitization of yet another predatory loan could occur again. This is the legacy of MERS, and the entire scheme was predicated upon the fraudulent designation of MERS as the ‘beneficiary’ under millions of deeds of trust in Nevada and other states.”

MERS now holds over 62 million mortgages in its name, including over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans. But courts are increasingly ruling that MERS is merely a nominee, without standing to foreclose on the collateral that makes up a major portion of the portfolios of some very large banks. It seems the banks claiming to be the real parties in interest may have short-circuited themselves out of the chain of title entitling them to the collateral.

Paul Krugman has interrupted my flow of thoughts today by bring us the following warning about the "rage" on the right against Obama and his very moderate right-of-center policies - which have also enraged people on the left for entirely different reasons (and this certainly is an important warning that many people are still either ignoring or overlooking). Read and heed, friends. Then proceed to the next part of my essay if you will.

The last time a Democrat sat in the White House, he faced a nonstop witch hunt by his political opponents. Prominent figures on the right accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of everything from drug smuggling to murder. And once Republicans took control of Congress, they subjected the Clinton administration to unrelenting harassment - at one point taking 140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White House had misused its Christmas card list.

Now it's happening again - except that this time it's even worse. Let's turn the floor over to Rush Limbaugh: "Imam Hussein Obama," he recently declared, is "probably the best anti-American president we've ever had."

To get a sense of how much it matters when people like Mr. Limbaugh talk like this, bear in mind that he's an utterly mainstream figure within the Republican Party; bear in mind, too, that unless something changes the political dynamics, Republicans will soon control at least one house of Congress. This is going to be very, very ugly.

So where is this rage coming from? Why is it flourishing? What will it do to America?

Here's the innermost of the inside info on the CIA's best friend, R. Allen Stanford (is it still true that people use that first initial to hide who they used to be?). Just continue thinking while you read the following about those Bush/Cheney/McCain/Whoever? CONSERVATIVES!!!!!!!! I guess I can see having read the whole article why he deserved being "knighted" or at least crowned. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

A Full-Service Bank: R. Allen Stanford and the CIA

In a scandal-plagued era such as ours, scarred by murderous wars, occupations and corruption that would make a Roman emperor blush, accused crooks have names; even juiced ones like R. Allen Stanford. Last year, when a federal court in Texas handed down indictments charging Stanford International Bank (SIB) and its officers with "orchestrating a fraudulent, multibillion dollar investment scheme," I wondered: was there more to the story? Indeed there was. Once described by fawning media as a "flamboyant Texan" and "philanthropist," Stanford was founder and sole shareholder of a global banking empire once conservatively valued at $50 billion. According to the federal indictment, "Sir Allen," as he was dubbed by a corrupt former minister of Antigua, ran a massive Ponzi scheme camouflaged as a bank that sold some $7 billion in self-styled "certificates of deposit" and $1.2 billion in mutual funds. Operated from behind a façade of well-appointed offices and with a jet-set lifestyle to match, the Stanford grift may have been impressive but it was a scam from the get-go.

Lured by "high rates that exceed those available through true certificates of deposit offered by traditional banks," thousands lost their shirts. Those high rates were a lie and the bank's "unique investment strategy" about as legitimate as a penny-stock fraud or advance fee scam on the internet. Of the $8 billion hoovered up by the banker and his cronies, only about $500 million have been recovered.

Facing the prospect of years in prison, The Miami Herald reported that SIB's chief financial officer James Davis, once Stanford's college roommate and originally charged in the indictment, copped a plea to save his own neck. Davis told the Justice Department that "his boss had been stealing from investors for decades while paying bribes to regulators and even performing blood oaths never to reveal his secrets." Talk about a wise guy! And with connections and generous pay-outs to U.S. politicians going back more than a decade, 65% of which went to Democrats including our "change" president, Allen Stanford was plugged-in.

Evidence also suggests he may have gotten an assist covering his tracks from regulators and U.S. secret state agencies, including the CIA.

SEC Stand Down

Allen Stanford did business the American way; he swindled depositors and then siphoned-off the proceeds into a spider's web of offshore accounts.

The indictment charges "it was part of the conspiracy that Stanford ... and others would cause the movement of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained investors' funds from and among bank accounts located in the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere in the United States to various bank accounts located outside of the United States ... in order to exercise exclusive control over the investors' funds."

Auditors learned that funds were moved through Stanford-controlled accounts to offshore banks, including HSBC in London, Bank Julius Baer in Zurich and eight others; banks which have figured in past money laundering or tax-avoidance scandals. None have been charged with an offense in connection with the affair.

In all, 28 numbered accounts were listed by prosecutors, veritable black holes that escaped scrutiny; that is if regulators in Washington were minding the store, which they weren't. Years earlier, SEC investigators at the commission's Ft. Worth office uncovered evidence of wrongdoing. According to an explosive report by the SEC's Office of the Inspector General, Ft. Worth examiners launched a series of probes in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2004 exploring SIB practices but their diligence was sabotaged by high-level officials.That report,

Investigation of the SEC's Response to Concerns Regarding Robert Allen Stanford's Alleged Ponzi Scheme, Case No. OIG-526, March 31, 2010, paints a damning picture of the regulatory process.

The Inspector General states: "While the Fort Worth Examination group made multiple efforts after each examination to convince the Fort Worth Enforcement program ('Enforcement') to open and conduct an investigation of Stanford, no meaningful effort was made by Enforcement to investigate the potential fraud or to bring an action to attempt to stop it until late 2005.

"Last month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that staff members, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared management retaliation, told the newspaper that higher-ups wanted "tools to do away with people who have a dissenting opinion."

Senior managers called the probes a "goat screw" and ordered them killed.

The OIG investigation "found that the former head of Enforcement in Fort Worth, who played a significant role in multiple decisions over the years to quash investigations of Stanford, sought to represent Stanford on three separate occasions after he left the Commission, and in fact represented Stanford briefly in 2006 before he was informed by the SEC Ethics Office that it was improper to do so." (emphasis added)

In Florida, The Miami Herald revealed that state regulators did the SEC one better and gave the bank carte blanche to operate secretly, moving "vast amounts of money offshore - without reporting a penny to regulators."

The arrangement between the bank and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation was so brazen, that Stanford's company "was allowed to sell hundreds of millions in bank notes without allowing regulators to check for fraud."

And once those suspect instruments were sold, the Herald reported that "employees shredded records of the trust agreements and CD purchases once the original documents were sent to Antigua, state records show."

A sweet deal if you can get it, or have powerful friends who might wish to avoid messy inquiries touching upon sensitive matters. The New York Times reported last year that current charges "stem from an inquiry opened in October 2006," that is, nearly a decade "after a routine exam of Stanford Group, according to Stephen J. Korotash, an associate regional director of enforcement with the agency's Fort Worth office." Korotash told the Times that the SEC "stood down" its investigation "at the request of another federal agency, which he declined to name."

According to BusinessWeek, in 2006 the Bush administration "bestowed on his intelligence czar ... broad authority, in the name of national security" to excuse companies from "their normal accounting and securities-disclosure obligations" if such disclosures revealed "certain top-secret defense projects." At the time, William McLucas, the Securities and Exchange Commission's former enforcement chief told the publication that the ability to conceal financial information from regulators under the rubric of "national security" could lead some companies "to play fast and loose with their numbers."

The former official said, "it could be that you have a bunch of books and records out there that no one knows about." In response to media reports, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote a letter to SEC Chair Mary Schapiro last year, demanding documents, and answers, why the SEC suspended investigations of the "Stanford Group under pressure from another unidentified federal agency."

The Ohio congressman said, "if this is true ... our subcommittee will demand that the SEC reveal the name of that agency which told it not to enforce federal laws which protect investors."Neither documents nor answers were forthcoming.

Cynics might see something untoward here, but I think it's all just a coincidence, like drug planes bought with bundles of cash laundered through American banks.

Drug Probes Killed

In 1986 during the Iran-Contra period, Allen Stanford's Guardian International Bank set up shop on the sleepy Caribbean isle of Montserrat (pop. 5,870).

It didn't take long before the bank came under scrutiny. Guardian was the subject of a joint Scotland Yard-FBI investigation "into so-called 'brass-plate' banks," The Independent disclosed. According to reporters David Connett and Stephen Foley, the bank "was suspected of laundering drug money from the notorious Medellin and Cali drug cartels run by Pablo Escobar and the Orejuela brothers."

During the Iran-Contra scandal, congressional investigators and journalists scrutinized links between Colombian drug traffickers and the CIA's Nicaraguan Contra army.

By 1986, evidence began to emerge that top Contra officials and the Agency enjoyed cosy ties with both Escobar and the Orejuela brothers. Under pressure from the Reagan administration however, both Congress and corporate media deep-sixed the story as the affair was covered-up.

A decade later, largely as a result of outrage generated by the late Gary Webb's Dark Alliance series, a memorandum of understanding between Reagan's Justice Department and the Agency entered the public record. That 1982 memo legally freed the CIA from reporting drug smuggling by their assets.

Former FBI agent Ross Gaffney who led the Guardian probe, told Connett and Foley that "we suspected that Stanford's bank was involved in money laundering." But before that investigation could be developed, Stanford suddenly pulled up stakes and "voluntarily surrendered his Montserrat banking licence and left the island."

Gaffney said that even after Guardian closed, the FBI "continued to take an interest in Stanford and set up a second inquiry into that bank after receiving intelligence that it continued to launder money for the Medellin and Cali cartels." The former federal agent told The Independent, "We had hard intelligence about what he was doing and we began to develop it" but the investigation died or more likely, killed, by officials higher-up the food chain.

After leaving Montserrat, Stanford trained his sights on Antigua and Barbuda and developed a close relationship with former prime minister Lester Bird."Under the Bird family leadership" Connett and Foley reported, "the island was widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in the Caribbean, with well-documented links to arms and drug smuggling and money laundering."

According to The Independent, "in 1990, Israeli automatic weapons ordered by Mr Bird's brother Vere turned up in the hands of a notorious Colombian drug trafficker."

Despite suspicions, it appears that Stanford was golden as far as the feds were concerned; just another guy with an endless supply of "get-out-of-jail-free" cards. One reason Stanford operated with impunity, the BBC informs us, is that he "may have been a US government informer." DEA documents seen by BBC's investigative unit Panorama, suggest that "drug money [was] originally paid in to Stanford International Bank by agents acting for a feared Mexican drug lord known as the 'Lord of the Heavens'."

Confidential DEA sources believe that Stanford turned over "details of money-laundering from Latin American clients from Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Ecuador," thus "effectively guaranteeing himself a decade's worth of 'protection' from the authorities, especially the SEC."

"We were convinced that Stanford's bank attracted millions of narco-dollars," sources told Panorama, "but it was very difficult to get the evidence to nail him." "The word is" BBC reported, "that Stanford has been a confidential informer for the DEA since '99."

Snitch or not, this raises intriguing questions.Was Stanford's bank a black hole which U.S. intelligence agencies could exploit, in the interest of "national security" mind you, and therefore exempt from "normal disclosure obligations" as BusinessWeek averred?

If this were so, then even if Stanford were an informant he could have continued to launder drug money and profit nicely; such gentleman's agreements are not without precedent.One need only glance at internal U.S. government documents released by the National Security Archive, documents which revealed the Cali cartel's close collaboration with corrupt Colombian police, neofascist paramilitaries and the CIA when Medellín drug lord Pablo Escobar was run to ground.

Pointedly, was Stanford's banking empire another in a long line of institutional channels that drug cartels and the CIA could both profit from?

Banks, Drugs and Covert Operations

Across the decades, historians, investigative journalists and researchers have uncovered strong evidence that various banks have served as virtual cut-outs for CIA covert operations. Readers need only recall illegal activities by institutions as diverse as Paul Helliwell's Castle Bank and Trust in the Bahamas, Frank Nugan and Michael Hand's Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney and the Cayman Islands, or the far-flung empire of Agha Hasan Abedi's Bank and Credit and Commerce International.

Separated in time and geography, what all three banks had in common was their close proximity to international drug trafficking networks and the CIA, particularly in areas of acute interest to U.S. policy planners. Did Stanford International Bank have a similar arrangement with the Agency?

When the scandal finally broke, the Houston Chronicle reported that authorities had been "looking for ties to organized drug cartels and money laundering, going back at least a decade." In the late 1990s, court documents revealed that "operatives of the Juarez cartel began opening accounts at Stanford's Antigua-based bank," laundering profits amassed by the Amado Carrillo Fuentes organization, the late "Lord of the Heavens" referred to in the BBC report.

The Chronicle notes that Fuentes' representatives "used Stanford International Bank to open 10 accounts and deposit $3 million." We should bear in mind however, these represent only known accounts. Were there others?

Federal and state investigators have said that there were. After authorities determined the accounts were held by a notorious drug cartel, Stanford turned over the $3 million. Yet despite hard evidence of criminal wrongdoing, federal officials told the Chronicle that "any alleged Stanford connection to drug cartels and their money could lie buried in the paperwork gathered for the Security and Exchange Commission's civil inquiry."One might even say rather conveniently.

During the same period, Texas state securities regulators uncovered more evidence of money laundering by Stanford entities. But because it involved offshore banks, they "referred it" to the FBI and SEC.

Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford told a Senate Finance Committee last year, "Why it took 10 years for the feds to move on it, I cannot answer." Miffed by government foot-dragging, Crawford added, "We worked with the FBI and the SEC and basically gave them the case. We told them what we'd seen and they were going to run with it."But that investigation died on the vine.

Echoing similar themes, The Observer disclosed an FBI source close to the investigation confirmed that the Bureau "was looking at links to international drug gangs as part of the huge investigation into Stanford's banking activities."

The Observer reported that Mexican authorities seized one of Stanford's private jets in connection with alleged links to the Gulf cartel and said that "cheques found inside the plane were linked to the cartel, which is one of the most violent criminal organisations in the world."

DEA sources told the London newspaper "there may well have been a trail connecting his Mexican affairs to narco-trafficking interests." However, a second DEA official told The Observer, "I think we'll find that any possible drug-related trail and SEC priorities are not all in the same frame."A curious statement considering the billions of dollars in fraudulent activities alleged against the bank, some of which may have been derived from laundering drug money.

One would assume that evidence of serious wrongdoing would be motive enough to take a hard look at the allegations and not concoct a fairy tale that these charges lie "buried in the paperwork"!

A U.S. drug enforcement official told The Observer, "Any major US interest seeking to avoid fully disclosed investments would have to go to pretty careful lengths to avoid encountering cartel interests."

"Anyone seeking to conceal or launder money would find it in safe and lucrative hands were they to forge alliances with, rather than skirt, the cartels," The Observer noted, and would "find them accommodating in terms of remuneration."

The official hastened to add, it's "nothing anyone will confirm for Stanford right now." The question is: why?

A Full-Service BankOne possible answer may revolve around charges that SIB's Venezuela branch was a conduit for laundered CIA funds.

If true, then the Agency would be dead set against trial disclosures that revealed the bank had been involved in laundering drug money, particularly if narcotics syndicates are playing a role in U.S. destabilization efforts there.

Months before Stanford's empire collapsed, Venezuela's socialist government launched a raid on SIB offices in Caracas.The Daily Telegraph reported that "Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire ... is now at the centre of an international spying row."The conservative British newspaper disclosed that "officials from Venezuelan military intelligence raided a branch of his offshore bank over claims that its employees were paid by the CIA to spy on the south American country."

Although corporate media in the U.S. dismissed Venezuelan allegations as propaganda, questions persist.

While on a charm offensive before his arrest last year, Stanford gave an interview to CNBC's Scott Cohn. When asked about claims that his bank may have been a cut-out for the Agency, this curious exchange took place:

Cohn: "You just by nature of your position and where you were got to know a lot of people in Latin America, in Africa, in Europe, around the world, and it strikes me that somebody in your position would be useful to the authorities in the US trying to find out what was going on there, what was going on in places like Venezuela. Can you tell me about any sort of role you played that way, were you helpful to the authorities in the US?"

Stanford: "Are you talking about the CIA?"

Cohn: "Well, you tell me."

Stanford: "I'm not going to talk about that."

Cohn: "Why not?"

Stanford: "I'm just not going to talk about that."

Cohn: "Well, I mean, am I - is my premise correct that someone in your position would be helpful to those who wanted to know what was going on?"

Stanford: "I really don't have anything to add to that that would be of any value."

Stanford's reticence is certainly understandable, considering Frank Hand's fate 30 years ago.

During a similar scandal when the CIA-linked Nugan Hand bank collapsed amid charges of fraud and drug money laundering, the chief executive turned up dead in his Mercedes with a shot to the head.

Despite evidence uncovered by investigations going back to the 1980s, drug money laundering charges or any reference to Agency activities will not figure in the Justice Department's case when Stanford goes on trial in January.

As ABC News delicately put it, SEC action against Stanford "may have complicated the federal drug case."

Underscoring the federal government's reluctance to explore this dark corner of Allen Stanford's career, it might do well to keep in mind what one airline executive told investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker during his probe into the 9/11 attacks."

Sometimes when things don't make business sense, its because they do make sense . . . just in some other way."

Now that's some CONSERVATIVE DRUG WAR MANAGEMENT isn't it? More folks laughing all the way to jail (and then back to the "banks"). Any one still wondering about how Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff thought they could get away with their sooooo minor crimes? (And are - you can be assured.) And they're(we're) still funding (bigtime) that WAR ON DRUGS? Absolutely! And locking up hippies for less than a gram of marijuana use. And the very mention of Daniel Hopsicker should make everyone who doubts the 9/11 Truth Movement's mission very uneasy. Have we had enough yet? Let's get organized people! Suzan _____________

6 comments:

tnlib said...

Yes. Let's do get organized. An excellent piece here, proving once again that us smart people are on the same track. Maybe between the two of us we can convince one half of one conservative brain to mend their misguided ways - and maybe even some of our Democratic friends who've spent the last year whining.

Superb job.

stuartbramhall said...

Don't forget Pete Brewton's excellent 1992 expose in the Houston Post - linking 29 savings and loans failures to fraudulent loans to CIA front companies - who used the funds to pay mercenaries in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola and Chad. I write about my own close encounter with the seamier side of US intelligence in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (www.stuartbramhall.com). I currently live in exile in New Zealand.

Suzan said...

Thank you, tnl,

Without people like you who let me know you are reading from time to time . . . anyway, my humble thanks.

And Stuart,

Link?

linking 29 savings and loans failures to fraudulent loans to CIA front companies - who used the funds to pay mercenaries in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola and Chad

I'd love to read it, but you are correctamundo, my friend, these stories have been rampant for years - I myself am working on just a compilation of all that has been published on Oswald's CIA- and FBI-known and -directed-by activities, purposively left out of the Warren Report and obfuscated by paid literary assassins like Gerald Posner.

I've already visited your site once but am returning there forthwith. (Wish I were in NZ!)

Thanks for responding, friends!

S

Dave Dubya said...

We can be thankful for our last vestige of democracy, the ballot initiative, for bringing a little sanity to the drug issues. More people are less frightened of marijuana now that medical use is sanctioned in some states. We still have a looong way to go.

I love Kiwis too.

Tom Harper said...

Whew! That's a lot of sinister corruption crammed into one post. My head is still spinning; and I thought I was jaded.

I hadn't heard of Allen Stanford before. But this confirms what I've believed for a long time: the villains that are household names are just flunkies. They're the street-corner drug dealers; the Koch brothers and Allen Stanfords and Richard Mellon Scaifes (and others we probably haven't heard of) are the kingpins.

stuartbramhall said...

Here is a great link to Brewton's book (expands his 1992 Houston Post series) and some You Tube interviews:

http://thefilmarchived.blogspot.com/2010/08/pete-brewton-on-mafia-cia-and-george.html